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How Culturally Responsive Teaching Showed Up In My Operating Room

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The physician's assistant stood at the foot of my bed, her hands moving through the air like a spoken word poet mid-stanza, my mother and father on both sides caught up in her words.

She spoke with a slight British accent and a hint of Caribbean dialect. "Ms. Buddington, do you know what you're here for today?"

I did.

I, at least, had some idea...

For the last three months, I'd been researching my diagnosis of idiopathic intracranial hypertension- a rare neurological illness that predominately affects Women of child-bearing age, and mimics the symptoms of a brain tumor.

My eyes had suddenly become sensitive to the light turning into stars and flecks flashing across my vision, my head was always in pain on random days, and I experienced vertigo often.

After three examinations, an MRI, and a lumbar puncture, I found out that an excessive buildup of spinal fluid behind my eyes caused the symptoms.

That's a mouthful ain't it? It was for me too.

If it were not for the abundance of journalists covering the disproportionalities of people of color and medicine, I'm not sure I would have gone to the lengths that I did to decode the medical terminology used behind the constant rotation of hospital curtains. Doctors seemed fascinated with me, discovering that my condition not quite idiopathic and every professional had a question for me considering only 100,000 Americans currently live with IIH.

They wanted to understand the next steps the qualified medical professional was going to take, without sounding ignorant: What other medicine does he have you taking? Well, why would he choose that one? Oh, you're having an angiogram? Why?

I responded as best as I could, but honestly...I knew very little. I was horrified that they weren't as knowledgeable either.

I turned to Google, filled with terrifying medical journals, forums, and vague articles. I called friends in the medical field that had heard of my disorder but have rarely come into contact with anyone who was suffering from it. I frantically searched for Facebook groups that were sometimes reassuring, witnessing people asking the same questions that I had--knowing that I wasn't alone.

However, it still wasn't clear. None of my degrees, my ability to analyze text or multiple talents could help me decipher what was happening me.

Here is what I knew: Something was wrong with my brain, my vision was getting worse, and if I didn't rectify it I would go blind.

I said this to the physician’s assistant, who'd be in the room for my invasive procedure, and she launched into her cadence. I immediately recognized her stance; it was one I'd come into contact with at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, in ciphers of my youth, and from myself while standing in front of my students--the blackboard a stage.

She explained that my brain was like a tree, "You could see the front and the back of it, you could look at the branches that extend from it, but you can't see the inside. We need to make our way into those branches, to view them internally. You've already had an MRI, which is like a 1950's television to a neurologist, but an angiogram is your brain in HD."

She went on to explain the process in figurative language, and for the first time in our three months of hospital visits, my parents and I understood everything clearly. It was the first time, in the alternating list of doctors with information that felt like crashing waves, that we felt comfortable, in the loop, and accepting of all that was to come.

Before she left to join the others waiting in the operating room, my dad asked her, "Are you Caribbean?"

The question was my father's way of gauging his ability to spot his brethren from the islands.

She smiled, "My family is Guyanese. I went to school in London and America."

She told us about family gatherings in her native island and connected it to the presence of my support system, she asked me about what I did for a living and where my family hailed from and used my interest as a lens. She was sewing what she learned immediately, constructing curriculum from things I identified with and she also assured us that she would answer any question that I had until it was time for me to go under. She smiled as she left and her warmth stayed behind.

Culturally responsive education and the liberal arts showed up in my operating room, despite years of being at schools where a one-size-fits-all curriculum is mandated. It made it's way to my the ears of my worried parents, despite being told that math and analytical/efferent reading were of the utmost importance, despite watching electives thrown out of the window months before the state test, and despite creative writing and fiction reading becoming one-off, supplemental initiatives.

Weeks ago, I came across @Oga_DoctorBlue's Twitter thread and became emotional. He said that black doctors are important.

He went on to show an example of codeswitching in the medical field and how it gave a patient comfort and understanding. I'd read years ago that the cognitive development of any child was dependent on the way in which the brain interpreted the environment.

Zaretta Hammond, a culturally responsive expert, says that when the brain gets information that it's not socially, emotionally, or intellectually safe, it sends distress signals to the body. An unwelcoming environment alone can cause anxiety. Hammond states that when working with scholars from marginalized communities, "we have to understand that their safety-threat detection system is already cued to be on alert for social and psychological threats based on past experience."

This notion is not only true for young scholars, but it is true for many PoC. It's true for me.

The physician's assistant that stood by my bedside was culturally responsive. It's a trait that's taught through ritual, reflection, empathy, discussion, mindset shift and so much more. This vital trait isn't one found on a bulletin board of pillars, a thematic menu for Hispanic Heritage month, or the University names we slap on to the homeroom doors.

It's a trait that is honed, only through intentional actions implemented with fidelity: It's taking the first-day surveys out of the drawers and using them to design an experience that genuinely correlates with your scholar's interests. It's bringing parents into the fold and using scholar traditions and artifacts to create the room and the instructional material. It's starting each lesson with a quote or a lens. It's allowing students to engage in debates and real conversation, without equating a little noise to chaos. It's using similes, metaphors, and anecdotes to engage scholars. It's getting them to understand that their own lives and the heart of the curriculum aren't that far apart.

It's a 30-year-old brown woman, who's told that she has a neurological disorder--surrounded by a sea of doctors that are not just fascinated with her rare illness.

Instead of only speaking in technical terminology, they go above and beyond bedside manner to assure that she understands all aspects of her diagnosis and future treatments.

It's an academic institution understanding that an emphasis on STEM and its technical language is equally as important as writing, language arts, love, and its synergies. We cannot afford to ignore the necessity of amalgamation. Lives are at stake, and I don't just mean figuratively. We can do this the right way or in the words of my scholars when I give them varied ways to express their understanding of the content: We can do both.

FICTION: Soon Come: Season 1, Episode 1

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There was broken glass in my feet that night.

It’s the first time it’s happened since we started the tradition but I pulled it out of my sole and kept walking.

Blood and all.

My friends and I were headed to J’ouvert. We were in the shirts and jeans we’d shredded for effect, pounding the cement, hoping to make it right on time so we didn’t miss a thing.

J’ouvert is a celebration derived from colonizer carnival. When the enslaved weren’t allowed to celebrate they created their own commemoration. It’s street theatre, masquerade, steel pan sounds, and culture. It begins in the wee hours of the morning, in Brooklyn, and ends just before the West Indian Day Parade begins. The streets and masqueraders are covered in mud, oils, powder, and anything that is a metaphor for the toil of our people.

My grandmother, the most superstitious elder in our family, unknowingly filled me with traditions. I cringe when a months-old child’s hair is cut. I still rub overproof rum on my neck when I have a cold, alongside Vicks. I mix cod-liver oil and honey each morning. Some of Mumma’s remedies are tried and true but others are rooted in our history.

I can still smell the Wray & Nephew emanating from my chest on the nights that I didn’t have a cold and her voice, laying next to me, muffled by a pillow, “No duppy in dis’ house.”

During grandpa’s funeral, in Trelawny, Jamaica, the gravediggers refused to lay him to rest until they received rum. The smell always brought to mind their song, “We nah work til’ we get some rum. We nah work...”

Mumma’s personal belief was that it was disrespectful to the dead to wear your shoes on their graves. When we went to visit grandpa, she’d remove them before walking down his row. I did the same every time we came close to the area where Weeksville used to be, on Eastern Parkway. In a few blocks, we’d be greeted by people dressed as ghouls, percussionists, devils, dancers, and more. They were satire and truth, an exemplification of our pain, and a reminder that we had risen from the darkness.

It was ironic that the morning parade took this route. It was once a freed town’s cemetery. Mumma’s mother said they had big plans for Brooklyn long before gentrification started. The cemetery was sold and the remains that didn’t have headstones were thrown into the city dump. The contractors refused to wait, to bury the dead with dignity.

Every time we walked past Buffalo and Rochester Avenue, an animal sacred to indigenous people alongside medieval roots synonymous with slaughter, I took my shoes off. We were still walking on the dead.

Blood and all.

At first, I thought my date was hanging on to my every word. When I looked up from spinning my tale, I realized that he was horrified. The dimly lit cafe buzzed around us, patrons typing away at their screenplays and articles, others coming in for a drink to go, and some talking the night away—like us.

August in Brooklyn was full throttle. We were getting ready to spread our culture along the parkway, smoke grills filling the sky with authenticity, beads, and flags ready to go. Elders were pushing carts back and forth, pressing fruit for ripeness, dipping their hands into saltfish buckets, and watching all of the youth as if they were their own. The youth was still blasting firecrackers, kicking and throwing balls through nets and against courts, and filling the streets with laughter.

These were the parts of Brooklyn summer that were recognizable.

We were in one of those spots that you swear wasn’t there a second ago. They start with scaffolding, strip away all the identity of what was, and add lights, mason jars, and industrial stools. I would’ve never chosen a place like this for a date.

He spoke after a minute of silence, “Uh...that’s a lot to share on the first date.”

“You asked what the West Indian Day Parade was and what it meant to me.”

“I did. I’m from Kansas and we don’t have something like that in my town. I was just kind of curious. I was so grateful to find an apartment in this area, one that’s so close to these cute little spots and I can still get some jerk chicken down the block.”

He laughed. I guess this was the part where I was supposed to laugh too.

I didn’t.

He continued, “I’ve been here three months but my new job has me tied up all the time. I never have time to see Brooklyn. You’ve got to show me all the good things. I heard Williamsburg is dope and I really would like to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.”

I wanted to scoff at him but I maintained my composure.

He wanted me to show him my beloved Brooklyn, but he wanted to see all the parts that’d washed away the notion that we were ever here.

It was these moments that reminded me that privilege existed outside of the confines of race. The last reminder was walking down the block with a colleague, that was also from out of town, that pointed at a new condo, erected after eradicating historical brownstones. It defied the aesthetic of the block, an eyesore.

She pointed at it and said, “I need to get into an apartment building like this. All these other buildings just don’t feel like Brooklyn to me.”

The feel of Brooklyn, as interpreted by some 20-somethings that didn’t grow up here, is the viral videos of food trucks, new studio apartment gatherings, and more whitewash. This is what they perceived Brooklyn to be.

I felt like I was living in an alternate reality.

“So...are you going to show me Brooklyn?”

I smiled at Derrick, or whatever his name was, and nodded, “Sure.”

I checked my phone for the time and insisted that I had to go and see my grandmother. He was taken aback despite my “horror” tales from earlier, “Oh. Will I get to see you sometime this week?”

I smiled as I packed my things into my bag and picked up my trash, “Sure. I’ll call you.”

As I made my way through the evolving Crown Heights block to Utica Avenue, listening to pan sounds coming from someone’s camp, I realized that I only half-lied to him. I lived in Bedstuy and Mumma lived in East Flatbush. I was already halfway there; I might as well stop by.

Mumma’s house was on a block that I thought would never change. When we left Crown Heights, pushing through the buildings that were and weren’t ours, we drove into the heart of Brooklyn—the streets and stores lined with food, beautifully broken English, and everything I craved.

The B46 continued up Utica Avenue and college women with NYU tote bags got off beyond Church Ave.

I was wrong.

Mumma’s house was on a block that just might change.

Mumma’s stoop was filled with flowers, every breed that could be found at the local Korean store, and the backyard was filled with vegetables and herbs. I could hear Mumma’s blender through the kitchen window as I walked up the driveway.

It was an unspoken rule: The front door was for guests.

I wasn’t really a guest. The front door led into her always perfect living room, plastic on the sofas, and figurines galore. The side door was the entrance to the kitchen, filled with smells that I could only find there and back in Jamaica.

I knocked three times when Jaylen put his face to the glass of the door, from the other side.

“Open the door, boi!”

My little cousin laughed, “What did you bring me?”

“A spanking, if you don’t open this door.”

He opened the door smiling his big-tooth smile, “You don’t believe in spanking children. I’ve read your Facebook.”

“Oh yeah?! What do you know about Facebook?” I tickled him and closed the door behind us.

Jaylen was 11. He was the son of my Uncle Dash and Auntie Willie. They had 3 kids and they all lived here with Mumma. Coming to Mumma’s house was always a family reunion.

Jaylen ran back into the living room, bony legs flailing around the corner, to play his video games.

Mumma was in her zone. She wore her colorful robe, the one she’d been wearing all our lives, and she was peeling ginger and making ginger beer all at once.

“Mumma! Who made an order?”

“You don’t have manners, girl. Good evening.”

I hugged her, “Good evening, Mumma.”

She continued to blend and peel, “Brother Marcus asked me to mek some Irish Moss and Ginger Beer for his church function tomorrow.”

“Oh okay, businesswoman! Is he paying you?”

“Gwan and mind your business.”

I laughed. This meant she was making money.

I admired her. At almost 90 years old, but didn’t look a day over 70, she sewed outfits, blended juices, and catered for the Caribbean community. Everyone was always telling me how lucky I was and that I should cherish her.

I sat down on a stool nearby, enamored with what she was doing. I still didn’t know how to make ginger beer.

“Sadie, what are you doing here? Don’t you have work in the morning?”

My grandmother still couldn’t grasp the concept that I was an entrepreneur. I started work when I wanted and ended work when I wanted.

“Yes Mumma, but I had a date tonight.”

The blender stopped suddenly, “Wid who?”

“A man.”

“Does this man av’ a name?”

“It doesn’t matter what his name is because I’m not going to see him again.”

“Good.”

“Good? Mumma, you’re not concerned? I’m 30 and I’m still single.”

“So what. If you want a baby, any man will give you that, but don’t expect love. This family doesn’t get love from men.”

I sighed.

She was right. My father left my mother when I was 10 years old. My grandmother’s husband was an abusive alcoholic that she fled from. My great grandmother’s husband didn’t make it past 26 years old. We were unlucky in love.

“Just because you weren’t all lucky with...”

She cut me off, “Luck! This has nothing to do with luck!”

Mumma grabbed her cane and made her way to the dining room. She was on a mission. She opened the cabinets under the china closet, where she kept all her prized ceramics and glasses and pulled out her favorite photo album. It was sky blue with photos pouring from its edges and it’d seen many countries.

She flipped through and landed on a page with pictures of her childhood home. Three of the photos were of the house, the trees and the boats on Jamaica’s Barbican seaside but the last picture was of her. She was about 41, with long straightened jet black hair, that flew in the wind, a floral 1960’s style dress, and a leather suitcase in her hand.

She was on her way to back to the Brooklyn that her mother left behind.

Mumma’s hair was cut into a short gray afro now, that dress was still in the back of her closet, and all the things she believed then...she still believed now.

She pointed to a tree in the picture, “You see this tree in the yard?”

“Yes.”

“This woman, named Ms. Tee, was furious with my mother. They were sharing the same man. My mother didn’t know this, but Ms. Tee did. The whole parish told us that she buried something deep in the roots of that tree. We used to dig there as pickney but couldn’t find anything. That same year my father died. We been bad with love and men since then. We cursed child.”

I stared at the picture with Mumma in it. Although it was black and white, I could see the swaying of the vines and trees, the movement of the water, and the hurt in her still eyes.

“Wow. I didn’t know.”

Mumma slammed the photo album shut, “You find yourself. Forget love. Love shows up with skin like soil, wit like wire, smooth talk, and sticky hands. Who wan’ dat?”


I sat in front of Mumma’s waiting on my carpool.

I didn’t want to take the long bus ride back but I also didn’t feel like paying an arm and a leg to get home. A strong gust blew through the front yard, one that indicated rain was coming, and all I could think of was Mumma’s story.

We were not cursed.

We were unlucky in love.

I was going to break that cycle.

Why should only the men in our family get to give and receive love?

The carpool finally arrived. I walked down the steps and noticed the black tinted car was not in front of the right house—typical. I walked half a block, opened the back door, and noticed there were two people already sitting in the back, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

I closed the door and got into the front instead. I sighed due to the lack of leg room and the driver’s insistence that I place his personal book bag at my feet. We headed towards Utica Avenue when a woman in the back started a conversation with whoever was sitting next to her.

“I love that book. It’s phenomenal. I think it’s so sexy when guys read it.”

The guy replied, “Oh really? My friend insisted that I take it and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

I didn’t turn around but I could tell the guy was a brotha. I’d already seen the woman when I opened the door accidentally.

“You’re going to love it! 48 Laws of Power is a masterpiece. Robert Greene...”

He cut her off, “I know what the book is about. I’m just not into books like this. The rehashing of history to fit an agenda sounds like great marketing, not great reading.”

I smirked. I felt the same way about certain books: The Alchemist, 48 Laws of Power, Art of War, The Art of Seduction, etc.  I had a name for men that called them their favorite books.

I won’t share it.

“Oh, okay. Well, what do you do?”

“I’m in social work.”

“That’s beautiful. My family had foster kids. I know how difficult they can be.”

Homeboy and I snorted at the exact same time. Homegirl didn’t catch it.

“I’m visiting from California. Brooklyn is my second home because my bestie moved here five years ago. I’m back and forth. I grew up in San Francisco but I live in Los Angeles now. I own and run a dispensary. I like to call myself a spiritualist. I’ll get your spirit right.”

He laughed, “Is that right?”

“Yeah, I also employ some young folks from the community. Support the youth, right?”

“I’m curious...”

His voice was sultry. I wanted to focus on the Hot97 tunes coming through the radio but the words leaving his mouth called for my attention. I kept listening.

“How many of those young folks have fathers, uncles, and cousins, locked up, for doing the exact same thing that you are?”

The woman sighed. She was quiet for the rest of the ride.

A few blocks later, we dropped her off.

When the car drove towards the next destination, I said, “Good one, bro.”

He said, “A brotha just wanted to listen to his podcast in peace.”

“I feel that. I’m sorry. I’ll let you get back to it.”

I still hadn’t looked back at him. I thought it would be rude to turn around and stare. I kept my eyes on the road. I realized that he had a southern accent.

“It’s cool. You from around here?”

Oh no. Here we go with another show-me-Brooklyn guy.

“I am. I grew up here. I live in Bedstuy now. You?”

“I’m from Hampton Roads. All seven cities, really. I was a military kid, moving everywhere until the Navy took my father overseas and he never returned.”

“I know what that’s like.”

“A lot of us do, but we’re gonna be different right?”

“Right.”

I heard his podcast turn back on, through his headphones, and I realized that our conversation was over. The cab was about five minutes from home and I was excited to plop down on my sofa and watch Netflix. We pulled up to Malcolm X and Gates and I got out. I thanked the driver and made a mental note to give him 4 stars—due to his book bag. The gentleman in the back got out of the car too.

He grabbed his things from the car as I closed my door and when he lifted his head I saw that he was brown like soil—fine, as all hell.

Jesus.

He broke my trance, “You live around here, too?”

I stepped on the curb as the cab drove away, “Yeah, a block away. They’re not doing this to-your-door thing with pools anymore.”

“I know, but I like the walk. I love this area. Well, I did before it got crazy with all these changes. I guess since I’ve only been here for 5 years, I’m a gentrifier too huh?”

“They wouldn’t have changed Brooklyn for an influx of you.”

He smiled and his entire face lit the dark corner, “You’re right. It was good meeting you...uh?”

“Sadie.”

“Nice name. Nice to meet you, Sadie. I’m Dru.”

He extended his hand, in the sweaty Bedstuy summer night, and I grasped it.

Sticky.

Everything inside of me was boiling. 

Blood and all.

 

 

 

I'm Here To Tell You About Friendship At 30...Hold On, Let Me Call You Right Back...

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It just felt like you cared more about your brand than you cared about our friendship.

My homegirl sat with her hands folded, waiting for a response, fresh from a European trip and blissful honeymoon, sunshine glimmering through her afro, and her Americano getting cold.

I had no answer for her. 

Her comment sounded like a variation of other utterances she'd made before. In the last year and a half, I'd accepted a position at a school that seemed fantastic until its flaws started devouring the educators one by one.

Let me give you the short version: When the history teacher quit, I was asked to take on History and English. They merged two classes together into one room and changed the course name to "Humanities."

Almost 50 kids. One educator.

This was no biggie, considering that part of the bargain was that I'd have help with the grading, editing, and data analysis. Nope. Help never came. My life became a complete overwhelm, my home filled with stockpiles of graded and ungraded work, my performances cancelled, and writing diminished. One day, I reached out to my friends in a group text. 

"Hey Guys. I'm not feeling great right about now. My house looks crazy, my to-do list is insane. I could really use some words of encouragement."

Two of my girlfriends responded instantly, sharing their own stories and positivity. My sunshine-Americano-afro friend responded, "I can't feel guilty because my life is going well, Erica. I'm getting married and I'm planning that. I can't help it if things are great in my life and they aren't in yours."

Wait. What? 

I instantly called my other friends to see if I'd said anything inappropriate that would've prompted this unrelated response. They were both just as confused as I was. 

Six months later I found myself with a ruptured achilles tendon, during play production with my scholars, and in a boot/crutches for six more months. As a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding, I was expected to be at many mobile events: the bridal shower with a spiral staircase and no elevator, Martha's Vineyard for the wine tour on my antibiotics, the tasting also with no elevator. I was also told that the single most important event of the school year that I'd orchestrated, a service trip to South Africa for 30 scholars, would not be a possibility for me. 

I called my friend to break the news, two weeks into her wedding planning,"I won't be able to do much this summer."

She said she understood, I came to the wedding, and now here we were talking about my brand. 

"What are you talking about?"

 

I would see you posting on social media, creating graphics, and updating your websites, but I didn’t see you during my wedding planning.

I'd called several times. I'd asked what she needed and how I could hobble over to her home and help. Each and every time, she said she didn't need help and I should focus on healing. 

We left the table amicable, with plans to go to dinner once a month, and a I'll-text-you-when-I'm-home. We never did.

I left the cafe, walked down Broadway listening to the J train rumble, and passed my favorite bar. 

This bar, the one with the cheap shots, slamming burritos, and app controlled jukebox is the same bar that another close friend would make her way to the moment she made her way across the Williamsburg Bridge a few months later. 

She and I had been communicating about her Brooklyn visit for weeks. She was coming to an engagement party and then the rest of the weekend was ours.

I was excited, finally back on my feet and at a new job that kept my stress levels low. I waited 24 hours after her arrival time to reach out. When she answered the phone, there was loud music and laughter in the background.

"Tasha, where are you?"

"Hey girl! I'm at the bar at Broadway and something-and-other."

"The Telescope?" 

"Yeah, that's the one!" 

"Girl, that's like 5 minutes from my house."

"Oh really?! I didn't know. Come through! It's open bar."

My boyfriend and I made a mad dash for the bathroom & changed for the evening ahead of us. "Open bar" was synonymous with money-that-stayed-in-your-bank-account for hashtag #TravelNoire moments. When we arrived, I text, called, and practically smoke-signaled my friend to no avail. I saw people, that were close to her and her husband, when I arrived, but they were nowhere to be found. 

Eventually my boyfriend and I left and made our way home. Driving down Flushing Ave, discussing the fact that there was nothing open about the bar, my friend finally hit me back, "Hey girl. We were in and out of different bars all over the block. I'm sorry. Catch you next time I'm here!" 

"Catch you next time!"

These were the words, in a text, from a friend that lived in Los Angeles. We hadn't seen each other in 3 years and I was ecstatic about kicking it. For the 4 days, that I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean and took a picture in front Insecure's Dunes, she called and direct messaged about how she would meet me here or there. She never did. 

I don't need to write another anecdote for you to get the picture. Do I?

I haven't written in quite some time. 

Despite the curriculum that makes it in front of the scholars I adore, I have had little time for poetry, fiction, or memoir. In the last two years, I've been injured and then diagnosed. I'll save the "with what" for my loved ones.

Each summer brings an onset of self-care I didn't know I had in me. I'm eating differently, I'm going to the doctor more than once every other year, I'm taking up my mother's weekend requests for glam time, the people I surround myself with are mostly human beings that did not exist in my world five years ago, and I'm handling transitions far better than 25-year-old me. 

As Facebook greets me every morning with its on-this-day feature, I'm watching the seasons change. A decade ago, the people that brought me solace and comfort are replaced by completely different names and faces. Sure, quite a few remain. However many have made their way to my block list, the recesses of my text messages, or social media updates that never make it onto my feed or my mind.

I found myself riled up about the first few instances. I was hurt and I started to add up the things I did or did not do. I started to weigh if I was the common denominator. I quantified how much time I spent on my career and my brand. I wondered, "Did I put my job over the people that love me?"

I was telling all of this to the last friend of the famous group text, where it all began, who seemed to be the only consistent one. She said, "I'm here." 

These two words, as simple as they are, were the most healing things I needed to hear. While I was mourning the friendships that never aligned with the early seasons of "Girlfriends," there were so many people that loved me and were waiting for me to realize they were there too. 

An editor I'd met on Twitter a few years ago and a photographer that I'd befriended, while teaching at the same school, made their way to my house every Wednesday for "accountability night." My overeager homie in PR and Texas made monthly FaceTime calls and sent me videos of him singing a capella in the bathroom.

My parents are in my texts every Friday, like clockwork, "Are you home? Can we come by?" My boyfriend is with me almost half of the week. 

Yeah, I was growing apart from some friends. They were buying houses, having children, taking trips, getting married, having meetings, starting businesses, investing in their futures, and so much more. 

So am I.

There is no moral equivalence factor here. Our situations were different and we flexed where we could and flaked when we couldn't.

Sure. One of those girls might just be a plain jerk. 

I'm very sure I know exactly which one: Someone pointed out that they'd been with me three times in other public establishments she'd abandoned me in. Case in point.

But some folks are just busy, some overwhelmed, some legitimately don't have time to call, and some folks haven't pushed you up their priority list. Some folks will make it off the block list, others you might see in a local supermarket and be flabbergasted that you've lived in the same neighborhood all of this time, some you may never think of again. It's all part of the cliche cycle. 

I was listening to my favorite podcast, "NPR's How I Built This w/ Guy Raz" and they had Katrina Lake, Founder of Stitch Fix, talking about her life in conjunction with her innovations. 

Guy Raz prompts Katrina with this question, "Pretty early on, you parted ways with your co-founder. What's your story? Did you guys just have a different sense of what you wanted to do with the company?"

She responds, "My co-founder and I we parted ways...and it was really hard and in a divorce you talk about irreconcilable differences and I feel like through that I truly understood what that meant. If you can be in a place where you really deeply care for somebody and at the same time you see things so differently. You just can't see the future in the same way."

Raz asks her another questions, "Do you think people who are starting businesses are better off starting them on their own?"

"Starting a company is such a team sport and I look back and I could not have done it without the many employees who believed in it, the many clients who believed in it, my friends who I didn't go to their wedding because I was like too poor and too busy at the time and like...it's such a team sport and you have to surround yourself with people who help you to achieve those goals...I couldn't have done it without having a network of people who believed."

The words above can fluctuate and be replaced. Company can just be "your life." A co-founder can be a friend. Clients + employees can be associates. Here's one thing that we don't have to replace: "My friends who I didn't go to their ___________ because I was like too poor and too busy and at the time like..."

I'm not saying that you're not to blame here. You perhaps could've stepped up differently in different situations. Who knows?

Our friendships, active or deactivated are a crucial part of our trajectory. They make up who were are now and who we are then. 

The seasons. 

I'm grateful for every flower and petal that's bloomed but I am also grateful for those that've shed, allowing me to see the people who were prepared to deal with the "me" in that specific moment (poor, busy, etc. etc.). 

This is one of the biggest lessons that 30 has taught me thus far. 

I have many more lessons...but hold on...I'm going to call you right back.